The Five Benefits of Humility for a Leader

As I’ve worked with leaders from top companies and organizations around America, I’ve seen how pride can weaken a leader. I’ve also seen how humility can strength a leader. Here are five key benefits of humility I’ve noticed.

1. Humility gives a leader the capacity to lead out of a position of strength. Though humility is often viewed as a weakness in our loud, proud, take-no-prisoners culture today, it’s actually an incredible gesture of strength. First, it’s a choice. That’s the difference between being humiliated and being humbled. When you’re humiliated, a negative occurrence, it’s usually at the hands of someone else. But when you’re humble, it’s a consequence of a series of choices you’ve made.

2. Humility makes a leader more persuasive. This is one of the key benefits of humility, argues Macquarie University Professor John Dickson in his excellent book Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love and Leadership. It’s a compelling virtue in others that attracts us to them, Dickson notes. It’s why we cheer on the underdog and root against their opponent. This is an especially essential quality in a president—or any leader for that matter—because one of a leader’s most powerful tools is his ability to cast a vision to his followers, and to persuade them to unite to make that vision a reality.

3. Humility gives a leader the courage to set aside personal gain for the good of others. We need leaders willing to think more about the next generation. We need leaders willing to jeopardize the prospects of their own reelection for the good of others. But when ego rules, decisions become about improving personal position. The law, the Constitution, and the good of others all become subordinate to the leader’s agenda. A humble person sees others as inherently valuable. Prideful leaders are focused on themselves. Humble leaders are others-focused.

4. Humility gives a leader the candor to be honest with his followers and change course if necessary. A humble person separates himself from his accomplishments. When his accomplishments receive criticism, for him that’s not the same as receiving personal criticism. When prideful leaders might be tempted to hide their weaknesses, humble leaders are open about their weaknesses.

5. Humility gives a leader the character to respond charitably when attacked. Because a humble leader doesn’t derive his identity from his accomplishments, he’s able to deal with the kind of searing criticism that’s so common in our political arena today with ease and grace. Rather than trying to deflect it or subject their political opponents to an ad hominem attack, he simply owns the truth of the criticism—if there is any—and discards the rest. Because he’s willing to learn from his mistakes, he constantly grows. Prideful leaders have all the right answers. Humble leaders ask all the right questions—of themselves and others.

Question: How have you seen humility help leaders? What benefits of humility did I miss? Leave a comment below.

Join our Humble for President campaign, a non-partisan, grassroots movement calling on this nation’s next president—and all leaders and citizens—to adopt a new spirit of humility: an unvarnished virtue that has the potential to transform not only our politics, but our everyday lives and leadership. We need secure, confident, humble leaders. Visit www.HumbleForPresident.com

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

    So well said, Jeremie. It’s a constant challenge for leaders to remain humble. As you’ve pointed out, humility is not weakness–it’s an incredible strength to recognize our own mistakes and failures. And it’s definitely not “chapter one” in any management books of the day.

    What strikes me is how the yardstick is different depending on the observer. Two people watch the same behavior and one will say “humble” and the other will say “arrogant. I don’t know–perhaps that’s what makes it such an elusive goal even for those striving to develop true humility.

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  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXCQT3lvLgU Phaerisee

    Jeremie, I hope you don’t mind me spreading links to your articles on Humility! If I told you how special your work really is you might be not be humble anymore!